I have SO done this.
I’m not too proud to admit this: I cried all the way through Anne Hathaway’s solo as the cursed Fantine in Les Miserable. And not just a few sniffles – I sobbed. And sang along. And sobbed harder. It was the ugliest of ugly cries. I would have been mortified except I was sitting next to my friend Jeni who was crying and singing just as much as I was. I’m not sure what the rest of the theater was doing but in that moment both of us were completely caught up in one of the most moving stories ever to be written, accompanied by one of the best scores ever written. (And just to make you sure you understand the depth of my Les Mis love I’ve seen the Broadway production twice and cried like a hysterical fool through that too. My copy of Victor Hugo’s novel is one of the most highlighted, most read books I own.)
I’ve never really considered myself a “music person” because whenever I’m in the car or cleaning I almost exclusively listen to podcasts. But when I think back over my life, so many of my favorite memories are tied to music: Dancing my heart out to the Brian Setzer Orchestra, enraptured by P!nk’s gorgeous Truth About Love tour, feeling subversive memorizing the entire Black Parade album by My Chemical Romance, getting full-body goosebumps listening to Josh Groban (DON’T JUDGE ME I LOVE HIM SO HARD), my first wedding dance with my husband to Sting’s “Angels will run and hide”. And of course, my love of all things Pitbull when it comes to workout tunes – even if it gives me ALL the cognitive dissonance, I sweat it makes me work harder, faster, better, stronger in the gym. (Okay fine, and Kanye too.)
Um, yes. For me it’s “Amazing Grace” sung by a Mennonite Men’s choir. I love it and keep thinking it will make a good cool-down song but every time it comes on it’s definitely NOT cool down. Do you know how much it throws off a Tabata sprint to suddenly go from Pitbull to Mennonites?! It’s probably a health hazard at this point.
So when I saw a recent study that came out about how rewarding and motivating people find music, I was interested to note that while there are lots of people who need a soundtrack to their lives, researchers found there is a certain segment of the population for whom music just doesn’t do it for them. Anhedonia is the word they use to describe people who don’t feel emotionally connected to music.
“[The] anhedonia group showed no physiological responses to pleasant music … but showed standard responses to monetary rewards. However, surprisingly, our anhedonic participants were able to correctly identify the emotions evoked by music (that is, to know whether a song was happy, sad…),” says study author Marco-Pallarés.
“It means that there is nothing wrong with their reward centers or nothing wrong with their hearing or their perception of music. And this is a taste,” says neurologist Heilman, The James E. Rooks Jr. Distinguished Professor of Neurology at University of Florida College of Medicine. Marco-Pallares adds that it just shows different people are motivated by different things – one person’s sex is another person’s chocolate cake is another person’s Wagner aria.
The original study had the participants play a special game involving music while hooked up to bioelectrical monitoring devices to gauge their reactions. But the researchers, being numbers people naturally, also designed a self-quiz to measure people’s different responses to music. It looks at six different measures of musical reward. Once I saw my results, my reactions to music suddenly make a lot more sense:
The average of each item is 50, with a range of 40-60 being “normal.”
It’s not surprising to me that I scored highest in sensori-motor (I LOVE to dance) and social (I LOVE to dance with people). And considering my crying/goosebump/fist-pumping reactions to certain songs, it’s clear that I’m a wee bit above average from emotion evocation. But it’s also true that I don’t seek out new music often, don’t usually reward myself with it and I rarely use it to regulate my mood. I actually find a lot of music to be over stimulating to me – more shades of being an HSP? – and so listening to music almost never calms me down or relaxes me. One of you recently suggested to me that I should listen to some soothing classical music to help chill out to which I replied that violins, no matter how expertly played, make me want to stick forks in my ears as I find them unbearably whiny and screechy. The only time I personally use music to help my mood is sometimes when I’m down I’ll use it to pick me up or to motivate me to work harder in a workout – so only for stimulation. Honestly? I need total silence to really calm down/relax. The one exception to this is that I play the piano and when I play that really does help me calm down. (Thanks mom and dad for ignoring all my whining and forcing me to take lessons all those years!)
I think this kind of science is really cool – self-quizzes for the win! – because it helps people figure out what really motivates them. How many times have you read an article about “the best running playlist” or the “hottest workout songs”? When I posted about these before – and my personal hatred of them – many of you responded with how much you like them! There is a whole range of what makes people do what they do and the more I can learn what motivates and inspires me the better I can use it to my advantage!
What about you – are you a music person? How did you score on the quiz? Anyone else ever ugly cried through a song??
P.S. This is only tangentially related but I need some new podcast suggestions!! Here’s what I already listen to: the TED radio hour, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, This American Life, RadioLab, Snap Judgement, Freakonomics, Dinner Party Download, Science Friday and The Dave Ramsey Show. (Obv I spend a LOT of time in my car and cleaning!!) I just like learning new stuff – it can be health/fitness related but it doesn’t have to be! What’s your must-listen??